BELLINI, Giovanni
(b. ca. 1426, Venezia, d. 1516, Venezia)


Oil on wood, 65 x 90 cm
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

In the background, beyond the emblematic fig-tree, rises a walled city in which the main buildings of Vicenza can be identified: the Duomo, the Torre, the pre-Palladian basilica, as well as the bell-tower of Sant'Appolinare Nuovo in Ravenna and the Natisone at Cividale. But we reach the background only later, after having been attracted by the intense dramatic force of the group in the foreground. The Madonna holds the dead Christ in her lap, almost overwhelmed and bent down by the weight of her son's body that seems to slide away from her. Her face, faded by old age, appears worn out and exhausted through her suffering. Christ's abandonment, suggested by his hair hanging against the splendid, lenticular symbolic patch of grass (the Marian "hortus conclusus") which blooms behind the figures, is stiffened to the point of attaining a Dürer-like quality in the contorted hands. The sharp drape on which the body is lain is also a reminiscent of Dürer.

The painting is a devotional work for private patrons. It is signed bottom left: IOANNES / BELLINUS.